Monday, April 3, 2017

A LITTLE R&R BECOMES A LOT OF E&E

This story comes to us from a friend - Lee is a 'Nam vet, this is not my story . . . S.L.


Back when I was 20, in the midst of a war, could speak the language, and was on my own most of the time when not on a mission, life was exciting, and I wanted to taste all that I could. Lots of times I went out on my own, but early in my deployment I hooked up with a like-minded LRRP in the 101 Airborne Division. Walt is not in this photo, but it serves to help in remembering. This is a longer story, but I promise you some laughs . . . - Lee B.

A Little Rest & Recreation Becomes a Lot of Escape & Evasion

"Give me another one of those beers, Lee."

"Here ya go, Walt, but the party's almost over. There's less than a case left."

Walt grimaced and asked, "Wonder if this old gook knew he'd party more after he was buried than he ever did while he was alive?"

Walt Smith was blonde, medium height, blue-eyed and heavily muscled. A real American Golden Boy. How a corporal in the 101st Airborne's elite Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) and a Vietnamese Linguist in America's elite Army Security Agency (ASA) became close is something even we hadn't figured out. We just enjoyed each other's company.

As usual, we were partying with a dozen other guys in the sand around North Air Field a mile inland from Tuy Hoa and the coast of the South China Sea. Our favorite drinking spot was a solitary gravesite. Vietnamese graves are interesting in that a low masonry wall surrounds the individual burial plot. We would sit on the wall, legs straight out into the sand, and trade stories, some from the war, but most from civilian life. This grave was kind of a boundary at the foot of a sand hill. LRRP was at the top of the hill, and, since officially there were no Army Security Agency units in Vietnam, our “Radio Research Unit” sat at the bottom.

BANG!

More than one partier asked, "What the heck was that", or words to that effect, as we reached for our weapons.

"No problem," someone shouted, "Lt. Castleman just tripped over his own feet again. He was running with his .45 cocked because he heard us
partying and thought Charlie had broken through the wire."

Walt said, "Hey man, let's go to my hooch. I've got almost half a bottle of vodka and some more beer up there."

And so we departed the august company of our fellow revelers to start a night destined to live in ASA and LRRP infamy.

We trudged on up the hill, entered Walt’s hooch, and started on the vodka. That stuff must have been watered down because it disappeared pretty quickly. Then we started on the few beers he had.

Very carefully Walt placed two beers on the table.

“Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it,” Walt replied in a tone that sounded like he meant exactly that. Walt was very serious about his drinking. He flipped the chair around and sat down John Wayne style. A three-day patrol had left him with sunken hollows beneath his eyes and a patchwork of insect bites on his neck and face. Sort of an old man’s face set on the compact and muscular body of a nineteen-year-old athlete’s body.

Sweat rolled off his sun-reddened face as he threw his head back to drink. Most of the beer went pretty near his mouth. I laughed.

“So, all you do is sit in your hooch all day long and listen to your radio?”

I nodded. Walt laughed silently.

“Must be a real important part of the war effort.”

“It is, Walt. I report directly to General Westmoreland. It’s not my fault the fuckin’ VC haven’t learned to use radios yet. Anyhow, tell me about the 14 year-old you captured. You guys raid the Ho Chi Minh nursery or what?”

As if he’d suddenly discovered a great truth, Walt said, “This place really sucks!”

Of course he was right. North Field was a shit hole. The GP Medium I was living in was always hot, smelling of stale sweat. I ran into some extraordinary officers in Vietnam, but the MI officers we reported to were proof positive that “Military Intelligence” was an oxymoron. And after a year studying Vietnamese at Defense Language Institute, pretty much all I was picking up in my intercept work was static.

“Let’s go to Papa San’s for some tiger piss,” Walt urged. It didn’t take much urging on his part. Beer LaRue, I think, was the official French name. The bottle had a picture of a tiger on it, hence the moniker “tiger piss.”

Now Papa San’s was outside the wire on the west side of North Field. Walt was pretty sure he knew where the machine gun positions were, so we headed to the perimeter. I could just barely see him ahead of me running easily in the dark, half couched with his arms at his sides.
Sonofabitch! The ground rose up, and I fell again. Walt stopped.

“Nice going,” he said sweetly.

“I don’t do much of this shit when I’m sitting in my hooch,” I spat back.

Walt laughed and helped me up. “You okay?”

“I’m pretty sure both my kneecaps are broken.”

Walt was deeply concerned. “How’s your dick?”

“Okay,” I said.

“Good. Then you really have nothing to bitch about! Let’s go.”

We crawled into a drainage ditch and moved to within fifty meters of the first machine gun position. Walt said to wait, climbed out of the ditch, and moved to the position. The ditch started spinning, and I closed my eyes.

Walt came back and said, “I know where we can get through the wire.”

“And we’re not going to get shot, right?”

“Probably not,” Walt said over his shoulder. I climbed out of the ditch and followed him. This was actually starting to feel like fun.

We crawled to three more foxholes to alert them that we were going through the fence to get a few brews.

Trip flares occasionally lighted up the sky, but that was typical so it was a pretty uneventful trip. We got a couple of what appeared to be quart bottles, found a comfortable place in the dunes, leaned back, and enjoyed the first cold beer we had consumed in nearly an hour. Unfortunately those were our last cold brews for awhile because they were the last two that Papa San had.

Mission accomplished, we went back in the way we came out only to realize that our internal clocks were announcing that the party was just getting started. Walt asked; “Why don’t we go for a little Rest and Recreation downtown, Lee?”

“Right, Walt. Where do we go for our evening passes? I’m sure they’re going to let us bust curfew.”

“No, man. We don’t need any passes. We’ll go out the north side of the perimeter the same way we went to Papa San’s. Nobody’s going to do anything. All we have to do is dodge the MPs.”

“I don’t know, Walt. People with security clearances aren’t supposed to be as adventurous as you LRRPs. If we get caught, I’m going to be in deeper shit than you’ll ever have to think about.”

“To hell with that! Put on your party face, buddy, because we’re going to get drunk and get happy all night long!”

Somewhere in that colloquy there must have been some magic words because I shook my head and said, “Let’s do it to it, Walt.” And we were off.

Again, Walt maneuvered us through the barbed wire and concertina as well as the machine gun positions so that we were able to exit the perimeter on the north side. Now we had to get across a black top road, through an area of tin hooches occupied by Vietnamese, and down a country lane about a mile to Tuy Hoa.

As we crossed the road we saw jeep headlights coming straight at us. “MP’s!” I yelled, and Walt and I sped into the hooch area hoping to lose them. I got the bright idea of ducking into one of the hooches and was greeted by the timid stares of an entire Vietnamese family. Actually Walt and I were both fixed by those stares because he was right on my heels.

I quickly told the family that we were being chased by the military police and asked if they would help us. They got big smiles and told us to stay as long as we wanted ... which wasn’t very long because we were definitely wrapped up in the idea of more beer and meeting some ladies.
When the coast looked clear, we were off. The moon was bright and full so we could see pretty well as we walked down the dirt lane that led to Tuy Hoa and the objects of our affections.

The lane into Tuy Hoa was dusty and rutted from the daily traffic of trucks and jeeps. On either side of the road the jungle edged in with tree branches bending far out over the side ditches filled with stubby cactus. In the daylight, from a distance, the jungle could be beautiful in endlessly intricate patterns of differing shades of green. Up close at night it was simply black.

Tuy Hoa was off limits at night so Walt and I pretty much had the road to ourselves. Still, we stayed close to the edge remembering the sniper fire we’d experienced on other trips. There was a jungle trail that paralleled the road that was known to have considerable Viet Cong traffic.
I pointed that out to Walt.

“Every jungle trail in the whole damned country has considerable gook traffic,” he whispered back.

We came into town on the far west side. The lane we were on was bordered on the left by the backs of various shops and on the right by about a six-foot drop-off into what looked like sand and vegetation. We heard a jeep coming up behind us.

“MP’s!” Walt croaked in a whispered shout as he shoved me over the embankment and jumped himself.

“Oh, crap, man”, I whispered loudly. “We’re in a patch of cacti. This is killing me!” And then I started laughing.

“Be quiet, you dummy! We’re going to get caught if you don’t shut up. Don’t move and don’t say anything until the MP’s are gone.”
So we lay there, choking off our laughter, convulsing in silence, and wanting to scream, not breathing another word as the MPs’ open jeep slowly drove by.

We struggled up the shifting sand of the embankment wanting nothing more for the moment than to stop the pain. We pulled spines out of each other’s backs and butts for several minutes, and then it was off to partake of the pleasures of the flesh.

Suddenly we didn’t give a shit about the cacti, the snipers, or the MPs. We started laughing and talking out loud. This was our own private little battle, and no one else was invited.

“Except the whores,” Walt solemnly reminded me. He was right. Whores were invited.

As we headed east down the road we fell in behind a Vietnamese girl about whom Walt declared, "Boy, I'd like a little of that!"

As we got closer, it turned out to be a friend of mine named Huong. Now Huong was well known to a lot of the guys, but respected because she dated an ARVN assigned to work with us. Beh was a good guy, and he and the other ARVN support person, Vi, helped us through a lot of tight spots. However, while we were in the field at Phuc My, Beh told us that he was no longer dating Huong because she had been dating GIs and they tended to stretch out a girl’s pussy.

Anyhow, I had no more than said hello to Huong than Walt yelled; “MPs, run man!” And we took off through the alleys. But they were really on us this time so we split up. I dodged into a couple of different stores with the same story I had used in Tin Town and got the same supportive reaction. After losing sight of the MP’s, I circled back. No Walt, but Huong was still in the vicinity.

I told her what was going on so she took me to her grandparents’ home telling me that the MP’s would be doing a house-to-house search for us. Her grandparents hid me under their bed until the search was over. I thanked everyone and meandered through town looking for Walt and downing a few Cognacs and Coca-Colas.

Now I couldn’t find Walt, but I was feeling no pain. I was, however, cognizant enough to know that I’d better get my tail back inside North Field before dawn, or I’d be living with some consequences that I did not want. Or the VC would nail me, and I wouldn’t be living at all. So I started wandering back up the country lane toward Tin Town at a less than a steady pace.

Not far into my new quest, three schoolboys surround me and start yelling, “You teach me English! You teach me English!”

I said, “I can’t boys. I’ve got to get back inside the compound, or I’m in big trouble.”

They offered me a deal. “You come my house, teach English one hour, and we get you back inside. No problem.”

At this point I’m thinking, “Nothing from nothing leaves nothing, so what the hell.”

“Okay, boys! I’m your man!” And off we went to their house.

After meeting mom, dad, an aunt, and grandpa and grandma, I sat down with a book the boys provided and gave them what I suspect was the worst English lesson of their lives.

But, true to their word, they escorted me back to the east side of North Field. By this point, it was a very dark and stormy night. The rains had started, it was kind of foggy, and, with the moon behind the clouds, it was very dark.

I was facing an eight-foot high tornado fence, reinforced with a pyramid of concertina wire; big, round roles of razor wire set in a row three deep, topped by a row two deep, topped by a single row. I figured things weren’t looking too good. At the same time, I couldn’t see much more than ten yards in front of me and knew the guards couldn’t see any better.

One of the boys whispered, “You come here, GI. Here is hole. You crawl through. Nobody see.”

And in my stupor I’m thinking, “Jeez, I’m not even old enough to legally drink hard liquor yet, and here I’m probably going to die because of it!” But there were no viable alternatives. In I went, it was an easy crawl, and I was snug in my sleeping bag within ten minutes never having received a single challenge.

With even the kids knowing how to get into a supposedly secure position, I did have some questions about how protected we were. Of course, that was a question that I had to keep to myself, since I would have been forced to give the whole story and that would have gotten me court-marshaled.

Walt found me the next day and asked how I’d fared. I gave him a general run down and then asked, “Where did you disappear?”

“Oh, man, I thought I slipped them when I ducked up an alley. Except it dead-ended against a wall. The MP Jeep pulls up to block the only way out, and an MP captain got out with his .45 drawn and shouted; “Come out of there soldier! Right now!”

“I figured he knew what he was doing, so I walked out, cold-cocked the SOB and took off running like the devil. I found an all-night pleasure house and left part of my brains there on the sheets. Man, you should have stayed with me. I had a hell of a good time, Lee!”

So now you see how a little Rest and Recreation (R&R) became a lot of Escape and Evasion (E&E).

Several months later, after some training up in Phu Bai on the DMZ I heard that Walt bought it in a firefight. Losing friends was always difficult. I’m glad we had our adventure together -Lee B.

STORMBRINGER SENDS

Sunday, April 2, 2017

PASTOR - PRISONER - PAWN?

The plight of American missionary Rev. Andrew Brunson has recently come to my attention . . . S.L.


Pastor Andrew Brunson – a U.S. citizen from Black Mountain, North Carolina – was summoned to the local police station in Izmir, Turkey on the morning of October 7, 2016. He believed he would be receiving a long awaited permanent residence card. Pastor Brunson, who is a U.S. citizen, has been living in Turkey for 23 years, running a Christian church with the full knowledge of local authorities.

Upon arriving at the station, he was informed he was being deported based on being a “threat to national security,” a common excuse for deportation in Turkey. It became clear that he was being arrested and would be detained until deportation. He was fingerprinted, searched, and had his phone, pen, etc. taken away. He was denied a Bible. But instead of being deported, he was held with no charges.

During the initial 63 days of his detention, Brunson was denied access to his Turkish attorney. He was placed in solitary confinement for part of this time, with his glasses and watch confiscated.

On December 8th, after being detained for 63 days, things took a dire turn. In the middle of the night, Pastor Andrew was taken to a counter terrorism center in Izmir and then on to court. He was questioned and has been falsely charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” The charging documents state no “evidence has been gathered” against him. A Turkish judge had the option to deport Pastor Andrew, release him on weekly sign-ins at the local police station, or imprison him. The judge chose to remand Pastor Andrew to prison.”

Senator James Lankford (Republican - Oklahoma) traveled to the Turkish capital Ankara in December where he met with the Department of Justice officials, Fox News reported: “For the first time, we learned what these charges are,” Lankford told Fox News. “They were given to me orally.”

Lankford told Fox News that Turkish authorities alleged Brunson had helped Kurdish refugees — Turkey labels the Kurds an insurgent group — and that the pastor attended a conference put on by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government accused of plotting the 2016 coup from Pennsylvania where he now lives.

Reverend Andrew Brunson remains in Turkish custody at the time of this writing.

STORMBRINGER SENDS

WHY I WRITE - 40 Question Challenge

I've been doing a lot of writing lately and some of its actually getting printed. The book keeps growing legs but is certainly at the 99% level. This thing came across the Twitter timeline, so I'm doing it as a mental exercise. Something more creative & entertaining coming soon - cheers, S.L.


1) I Write because I’m compelled to.

2) I write to be remembered. To leave something of myself behind.

3) I write to reveal my truest thoughts.

4) I write to feel love.

5) I write to release anger.
I write as a release, yes. Anger, no - thank God.

6) I write to be me.

7) I write because I have stories to tell.

8) I write to change lives.
My writing is not about changing lives, influence perhaps, and the only lives I wish to influence are the people I love.

9) I write to find my way.

10) I write to connect.

11) I write to live a purposeful life beyond the daily grind of 9 to 5.

12) When someone asks me my profession, I can say I’m a writer.
(And yes, I’m proud to be a writer!)

13) I write to inspire others.

14) I write because I’m inspired by others.

15) I write for clarity.

16) I write because it’s liberating.

17) I write because I crack myself up and I want to make others laugh, too.

18) I write because I’m fortunate enough that I can and I want to respect the Creator for giving me this gift.

19) I write to express my uniqueness and that’s something no one can take away from any of us.

20) I write to feel awesome. It makes me feel like a badass.
I am a card-carrying member of the Badass Society - I don't need to write or do anything else to make me feel like what I already am.

21) I write in the hopes that others will follow my lead as I have followed the lead of so many others.

22) I write because the haters force me to continue and I secretly love pissing them off. I know, that’s juvenile, and I don’t care. At least I’m being honest.
Why I write has nothing to do with this.

23) Because I think a lot and if I didn’t have a journal to write in I would go crazy or my head would explode, and those outcomes are not acceptable.

24) I write because it’s the audacious thing to do.

Yes, darn it, I have the audacity to be a writer. Hell, I helped write the book! Call yourself a writer if you own it, read it and have it in your bathroom next to the toilet, for you know . . . those precious alone moments.

25) I write because I’ve failed at so many things to the point of moving on from them, but writing isn’t one of ’em. Slush piles be damned, I keep writing. I mean, common, don’t they realize I’m creating magic with my words? Magic, I say!

26) My words deserve to be written. (And, by the way, so do yours!)

27) Writing makes me happy.

28) Writing makes me better.

29) I watched Star Wars and was taken in by The Force to start writing. True story.
I’m a Trekkie - Star Wars in interesting special effects, but Star Trek has the philosophical/analytical side to it.

30) Writing is my creative outlet.

31) Writing is my thoughts outlet.

32) I write because it is cathartic and empowering.

33) I write to repeat myself and readers will notice. That’s when you know they’re paying attention.

34) I write because I’m always fascinated and writing allows me to explore what fascinates me.

35) Writing is my chi.

36) My Id is always talking in my head and I feel compelled to record his wants, needs, and his inexhaustible ramblings.

37) I write to shed my doubts, and I tell ya, I have plenty. So there are always words for my journal.
Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world, but the truth is, Green Berets don't have this problem.

38) I write to stop and smell the roses to discover the positives. Once I started writing them I discovered there are so many more than I realized. Give it a try. There’s another world out there that we walk past every day without noticing.

39) Because someone once told me writers are hot. It’s a shameful admission, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. When you’re hot, you’re hot!

40) I write because I love to write, always have. Always will.

36 out of the 40 above - I guess I should add a few of my own:

I write about Honor, items of military interest, literary and artistic themes, and the international security situation. These days I am writing more and more about the latter and my creative endeavors are suffering accordingly. I am a professional soldier, a writer and a thinker. I try not to let politics intrude. My influences are Somerset Maugham for the tropical locales where his stories take place and his subtle sense of irony, Conrad for the dark, introspective ambiance of his works, and of course Hemingway for his brevity and style.

I write because I have a story to tell,
a fantastic tale of adventures that start in the here and now and vector off in other-worldly directions. Humans interface with spiritual beings, often without even being aware of it, and karma drives the action to ironic conclusions. Think Somerset Maugham meets The Twilight Zone. Or rather, YOURSELF - meeting ME - in a traditional pub, at an exotic hotel on a jungled cliff overlooking the Andaman Sea, in southern Thailand

STORMBRINGER SENDS

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Historical Perspective: The Conflicts In The Middle East

If karma is real, we are certainly experiencing it on an international scale in the Middle East . . . S.L.


The Middle East is a mess, but despite our recent involvement in Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere, the United States is not solely responsible for the current state of affairs. The challenges inherited by the Trump Administration are complex; any solutions are elusive at best. A review is necessary.

Apart from the oil-rich Gulf nations, three countries in the Middle East stand out politically and culturally. Syria is a traditional society with a long cultural history. Damascus - one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world - has long been one of the Arab world's centers for cultural and artistic innovation, especially in the field of classical Arab music.

Iraq was the center of the Arab caliphate during the "Golden Age of Islam"; the 9th and 10th centuries. Baghdad was the largest city in the world at the beginning of the 10th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, both Syria and Iraq were part of the Ottoman Empire.

Egypt is the most populous and most cosmopolitan Arab nation. Egypt’s interaction with the West goes back as far as ancient Greece, when Alexander the Great made one of his generals – Ptolemy – pharaoh, in 305 BCE. Cleopatra (51-30 BCE) was Ptolemy ‘s direct descendent. Like Syria and Iraq, Egypt was also a part of the Ottoman Empire. During World War I, Egypt became a British protectorate.

From 1958 to 1961 an entity existed, the United Arab Republic, a union between Egypt and Syria. Tripartite Unity Talks occurred between Egypt, Iraq and Syria in 1963, but these failed after ba'athist-nasserist clashes in Syria. Egypt continued to use the name UAR from 1961 to 1972. In 1972 Iraq proposed a restored union with Egypt and Syria, but this also failed to coalesce. These three nations, however, became Soviet client states and focused their energies against Israel, the American proxy.

To understand the vectors of the current conflict, we can look to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1919 as a historic point. At that time, Britain moved into Palestine, Trans-Jordan, and Iraq while France took the lands of Lebanon and Syria (the Levant).

Read the rest of it HERE

These days I'm writing for American Military News - AMN reports on global affairs, terrorism, American national security and military, politics and other happenings. Anything you'd like to see my perspective on, please contact me via the email link, and thank you for your support!

STORMBRINGER SENDS